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After months of prepping and studying, this week saw the start of the FGASA level practical assessments. Finally it was time for the students to show off what they have learned over the past few months. The classroom and library has never seen so much activity as each night, the next day’s victims crammed every free inch of their brains with more information.

The cold morning air was interspersed with tension as the students bustled around the land rovers ensuring that the hot boxes were packed correctly, that vehicle checks had been done and the cars were spotless. ‘Guests’ were then herded into their chariots and pre briefings were given before setting off on their assessment drive. With winter fast approaching, most students were unrecognizable wrapped in layers of cold weather gear with buffs, beanies and gloves the order of the day!

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For 3 hours, each student had their moment in the spotlight. Everything from trees to tracks to birds and mammals were discussed as they did their best to give a professional game drive, with the added pressure of an assessor documenting the evidence as they went.

I am happy to report that all of the students did a great job and impressed the instructors with their ability to interpret their surroundings and give relevant and factually correct information. Many were able to deliver a guest experience that eclipsed the requirements for FGASA level 1 and this is a testament to their diligence and passion for the bush that has been evident throughout the course! As an assessor, there is something very emotional about watching students mature from complete amateurs into professional guides under your tutorage, and I can assure you that no one wanted them to succeed more than we did!!

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The bush was kind to many and some great sightings of the marquis animals were enjoyed, including lion cubs, black rhino and even wild dogs! In the guiding world, there is no substitute for genuine passion. Anyone can pigeon learn facts and figures, but a good guide will show a true love of nature and those emotions are easily translated to their guests. Throughout the last week, we have all been impressed by their attitude more than anything else and I am confident that not only are we nurturing and training young guides for the industry, but that we are supplying it with guides whose passion and ethics WILL have an impact on the guests fortunate enough to spend time with them.
Now that the assessments are all but done however, the students have no time rest on their laurels.

Next week sees the start of the Trails Guide preparation where students will take the next step on their journey and immerse themselves further into this fascinating world as they take to the bush on foot. This is the best way to experience nature: without the noise of the engine and without the creature comforts that accompany it. To walk in silence through the bush is one of the most humbling and moving experiences that one can have and there is something inexplicably special to watch an elephant feeding or a giraffe drifting across the plains, blissfully unaware of your presence. This is how life used to be, before the advent of technology. It is a primal feeling and one that will change the lives of many of the students forever!

Bush greetings Ben & the Bushwise Team!

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